Elderly and infirm residents bundled in blankets early Monday as they endured wind chills in the mid-30s for about an hour as firefighters battled a blaze at an east Macon nursing home.
At about 2:40 a.m., the first firefighters were called to investigate reported smoke in the area of Rosewood Nursing Center at 2795 Finney Circle.
The commander quickly called a second alarm for more firefighters because a small blaze in the mechanical room was sending smoke through the center, where sprinklers were already showering rooms with water.
When crews arrived, the staff already was wheeling people out of the building off Millerfield Road.
They did an outstanding job of getting everyone out and getting those who needed medical assistance attended to, said Macon-Bibb County Fire Chief Marvin Riggins.
Ambulances transported eight residents and three staff members to the hospital to be checked for smoke inhalation and stress-related ailments.
Some of them were transported back a short time later.
Fire investigator Lt. Ellen Kicklighter said she believes the fire started in a heating unit and was contained inside that utility room.
Firefighters had to knock a couple of holes in ceiling tiles in the wing where the fire started, but were able to put out the flames before they spread.
Once the fire was out and the smoke cleared, staff and firefighters began returning people to rooms, or wheeling them into hallways or other cleared areas of the facility.
Riggins was impressed by the efficiency of the evacuation of those bed-ridden patients and others with medical complications.
They did a Herculean job, Riggins said. The staff showed their skills in evacuating the patients.
Fire units stayed for about four and a half hours as they vacuumed up water and used large squeegees like brooms to push puddles down the hall and out the door.
Four residents were sent to other nursing homes because their rooms needed repair, Riggins said.
We were very fortunate to get them all out of the building and then back in.
To contact Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.